Spiritual struggle is frequently counter-intuitive – and is almost always learned from those who have walked its paths successfully before us. The following is a small passage from the teachings of the Elder Porphyrios. Its wisdom speaks for itself. If you would gain the victory in spiritual struggle, then above all things, seek to love.
Forget about all your weaknesses so that the adverse spirit does not realize what is going on and grab you and pin you down and cause you grief. Make no effort to free yourself from these weaknesses. Make your struggle with calmness and simplicity, without contortion and anxiety. Don’t say, “I’ll force myself and I’ll pray to acquire love and become good.” It is not profitable to afflict yourself to become good. In this way your negative response will be worse. Everything should be done in a natural way, calmly and freely. Nor should you pray, “O God, free me from my anger, my sorrow, etc.” It is not good to pray about or think about the specific passion; something happens in our soul (when we do) and we become even more enmeshed in the passion. Attack your passion head on, and you’ll see how strongly it will entwine you and grip you and you won’t be able to do anything.
Don’t struggle directly with temptation, don’t pray for it to go away, don’t say, “Take it from me, O God!” Then you are acknowledging the strength of the temptation and it takes hold of you. Because, although you are saying “Take it from me, O God,” basically you are bringing it to mind and fomenting even more. Your desire to be free of the passion will, of course, be there, but it will exist in a hidden and discreet way, without appearing outwardly. Remember what Scripture says, Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God. In this way your release from evil and from your weaknesses will happen in a mystical manner, without your being aware of it and without exertion.
This is the kind of effort I make. I have found that the bloodless mode is the best mode of sanctification. It is better, that is, to devote ourselves to love through the study of the hymns and psalms. This study and preoccupation directs the mind to Christ and refreshes my heart without my realizing it. At the same time, I pray, opening my arms in longing, love and joy, and the Lord takes me up into His love. That is our aim – to attain to that love.